Last night my gym got invaded. As I finished up the 6:30pm class and was getting ready for the Battle at the Bay training, a whole squad of guys I had never seen before began pouring into the gym. They carried a serious demeanor, had the Boston street-clothing-look that’s prevalent in places like Quincy & Weymouth, and looked like they meant business as they put on their wraps and got ready.
Usually, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, it’s the same group of people I’ve been training with since January for the April 7th fight. A friendly motley crew of straight off the boat Irish lads & gals and south shore natives like myself, training for the charity bout. We train hard, joke & laugh, spar, and support each other through the training.
The new group was from a neighboring gym in Quincy that’s also participating in Battle at the Bay. They were in the house to pair up fighters for the upcoming bout.
With all the new faces about, I started to feel serious nerves. Even when I was coming back to sparring after the concussion I didn’t feel the level of nervous energy that was coursing through my veins. Maybe it was the new people, maybe it was my insane caffeine habit, or maybe I was coming to the reality that I was going to really be fighting someone soon, but whatever it was, I was amped with anxious energy.
They started to select people to spar and I wasn’t picked. A stupid voice in my head said, “You can just fly under the radar and maybe spar Thursday.” But I knew that was just my inner wimp talking. I told myself, “If I don’t spar now, how the hell am I going to be ready to fight in front of a crowd on April 7th?”
I grabbed headgear and told the trainers I wanted to go in tonight. I was still plenty nervous, but a lifetime playing sports, getting into sticky situations, watching movies, and standing up to a few bullies had taught me that it’s alright to feel scared, just don’t show it, and “feel the fear and do it anyway.”
I stepped towards the ring and my trainer Mike told me to focus on fast punches, defense and moving not just to my right ( a bad tendency I have). As I climbed through the ropes the other guy’s trainer asked if I was green (a beginner), Mike told him I was and he said not to spar his guy because he was a very advanced fighter (probably should have guessed that by his badass Marine tattoo and cup gear that no one else had). I was bounced out and traded in for one of the Irish guys I had befriended throughout the training.
They had an even match and I awaited my opponent. They suddenly switched over to girls and I was under the impression I might not even end up sparring. I took off my headgear and joined in on the group training. After a few rounds on the bags and 3 rounds of jumping ropes, I heard, “O’Day! Grab some headgear, you’re going in.”
Mike told me the person I was sparring was a potential opponent for the fight and we were about the same experience level. We were to do two rounds and see how we matched up. We touched gloves and were off. It was pretty evenly matched the first round and I worked on body jabs and moving. The second round I took two rights to the face and got a bloody nose (I get bloody noses almost every sparring session. I think I broke it when I took the big shot in February and it hasn’t completely healed yet and that’s why I bleed so easily. A few people have recommended I get my nose Nose cauterized for the fight, so I don’t get stopped for a leaky nose. I will be looking into it).
I felt good after the sparring session. I don’t know how much my opponent was holding back, but we seemed pretty evenly matched and it should be a good fight on April 7th (I believe we were officially paired up).
I also was pumped that I had gotten over my fear/nerves and got in the ring and performed. You can hit the bag all day, but it’s a whole different ballgame when you get in the squared circle against someone. It was definitely a valuable experience and come April 7th I will be ready to put all my nervous energy to good use.
Why I’m Fighting
Last night we also had to submit our profile for the fight’s program. A short blurb on how cancer has affected us & our family and our inspiration to fight in Battle at the Bay.
As I typed mine out, I was taken aback by just the number of people in my family that have had been affected. Along with my brother, my uncle and several of my cousins have all had battles, that thank god were successful. My late aunt Patty & uncle Bill O’Day, the original O’Day genius before my sister and one of the smartest people to ever come out of Norwood (where my father’s family is from and where the fight is taking place), were not as lucky and I will be fighting to honor their memories.
I’m proud to be supporting a great charity, APT Fighting Chance Foundation through the fight, that helps people battling cancer with everyday tasks. The founder Mark Porter, was inspired to start the charity when he was going through his own battle and a neighbor shoveled his driveway without asking. It’s those simple everyday things that can make all a difference in people’s lives and with your support, they will continue to do great work.